When it comes to KOL identification mapping, there is no shortage of quantitative data on KOL and HCP activity. Most of it is free, and it’s easier than ever to grab it in spades, generating a billion publishing, convention, and social data points.
But we know from a decade of experience that simply dumping a mass of data, year after year, regardless of size, won’t necessarily help you solve your most important KOL challenges. One of the biggest challenges in identifying and mapping KOLs is addressing high-growth markets and specific geographies.
For example, there are many countries and geographies around the world where a person’s level of activity does not correspond to their level of impact or influence on health care. The example we often use from our own experience is multiple sclerosis in one of the largest emerging markets in the world. In this country, one of the most important KOLs for market access has not published anything of importance for more than a decade. And yet, without engaging and collaborating with this KOL both domestically and globally, your journey to market will not match your vision. Relying on quantitative data alone would not have allowed you to identify such KOLs. In fact, according to quant, such KOLs simply do not exist.
A similar situation often arises at the continental level. A KOL in one country can significantly influence and impact the decision-making of the HCP in a neighboring country. And in such situations, your global and national KOL strategic plans will need to include those transcontinental KOLs that wield power over vast geographical expanses. Pure quantitative data cannot identify such KOLs or connections, as such data is unable to reveal continental connections, which may not be explicitly apparent in publications or other channels.
An interesting situation that we see in regions such as the Middle East occurs when KOLs and important healthcare professionals in leadership positions, who are not from those countries, are often there for a period of limited time. This transient, expat-like nature of the KOL’s numerical influence is impossible to fully visualize through quantitative data alone. On the other hand, if you are looking to work with experts from these regions for national or global activities, you will need to identify them and engage with them in the right context.
Finally, we have also observed in many markets that some KOLs and expert communities (which are not necessarily neighbors) collaborate and influence each other or tend to work with a KOL community more than others due to a common language or cultural commonalities. Quantitative data does not reflect these connections to their true extent. More importantly, it doesn’t give us the reason why some KOLs merge in certain situations.
So how to solve this problem? It is clear that geography and culture have an impact on the research methodologies to be used for effective identification and mapping of KOLs. Relying on quantitative data alone is not enough if you want to fully understand the KOL landscape or networks, and why the larger KOL communities often informally coalesce to form powerful centers of influence in these countries and regions.
It is essential to add additional identification and mapping search modalities capable of directly determining both the voice of the KOL and the voice of the HCP. Ultimately, it is these voices that will help give you the most granular and accurate view of the KOL landscape as a whole and tell you the most important KOLs you should engage with to execute your strategy. .
Quantitative metrics and data sets are important when it comes to KOL identification, KOL mapping, KOL engagement planning, and the many other facets that make up your strategic plan. Similar to a steering wheel in a car, the quant is essential, however, you cannot move yourself and your passengers from A to B with just a steering wheel.
Business development account manager
KOL Insights at VMLY&R Health
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